She does not know for sure how long her fists have pounded on the stone walls of her prison, nor how long her screams of pain have echoed within their confines, only her instincts tell her that it has been longer than mere days or weeks. She knows this because she has already screamed for so long her voice has wasted away to nothing and she can feel the painful red raw state of her knuckles. Although vampires are creatures of the night, she can no longer stand the state of absolute darkness in which she is kept and she longs for a light of any kind...even the sunlight which would bring about her destruction.
Her world of solitude is harshly interrupted with the sound of a door opening and a weak light suddenly filling her cell. Her eyes have difficulty adjusting and all she can see is a dark shadow coming to stand before the iron bars of her cell. There is a rasping noise that hurts her ears and the grate on the iron door is opened, another bowl of blood is slopped into middle of her cell, most of its contents spilling onto the already stained and sticky floor. She starts to crawl towards the shafts of light spilling across the floor, like a moth to a flame, but all too quickly the grate is slammed shut and the shadow leaves. Moments later the external door closes to throw her back into complete darkness. A weak, strangled sob erupts from her mouth as she feels the loss of light as yet another cruel stab to her beating heart.
She collapses to the floor. The sobs gradually intensify until her entire body is twisted and heaving. Her cries emerge as near-silent, breathy gasps from her hoarse throat. This continues until she is too weak to even cry and her limp body is nothing more than a lump on the floor of her cell. Time passes, although she cannot be sure if it is minutes or hours. Instead everything merges together into one impenetrable void where nothing is coherent. Nothing until she sees a flash of red in her mind. It is just as abrupt and painful as the light hurting her eyes, possibly even more so. Gradually the colours solidify, forming a face so perfectly beautiful she has difficulty remembering if such a person ever existed.
The word is on her lips but it will go no further, she will not allow herself to put a name to the face. However she remembers something of why she is enduring her tortured existence. The desire to live once again enters her mind.
She manages a slow, awkward crawl, using her elbows rather than her wounded hands and makes her way to the bowl. She does not need to feel for it, she can smell the sharp tang of blood and knows exactly where it is. Balancing the bowl between her wrists, she lifts it to her lips and drinks heartily. As it slides down her throat she immediately feels invigorated, her thoughts become more coherent and she thinks perhaps she might not be going insane after all. After draining the bowl and licking it dry, she tosses it in the direction of the door. She listens to it clatter against the iron bars
She knows her existence is pitiful and she is reduced to being a mere tortured wreck of a creature...but she also knows that she has something to live for. This something overrides any shreds of dignity she still retains and makes her accept the pitiful food her captor offers her. She knows she has to stay alive. She clings to this purpose, it is her whole existence. Out of necessity she suppresses all thoughts of never leaving her cell. She has already spent countless hours wondering what would befall her if her captor should die and leave her imprisoned. Imagining a slow, lingering death once brought her to the point of madness and it was only with great effort that she forced herself back to the present and the shreds of information which kept her alive.
She makes her way to a corner of her cell, with her hunger sated for now she is able to think about sleep. With her limbs folded around her, knees tucked up to her chest and arms hugging them tightly against her, she closes her eyes. She allows the slow beating of her heart to lull herself to sleep even as she knows that the nightmares that plague her waking hours will increase tenfold in her unconscious mind.
Jeremiah Croft thought himself one of the luckiest young men alive...well, apart from his unfortunate infancy where both his parents died within the space of a month. However, his lack of any memory whatsoever of his parents meant that the misfortune of their passing had very little impact on his life, other than those moments in which he wondered how very different his life would have been if they had lived. However, after listening to Mr Giles's recollections, he was of the firm opinion that he came from a very fine and interesting family indeed. He had inherited the dark good looks and swarthy build of his grandfather, tempered somewhat with softer lines from his mother's side. Both his father and grandfather had been demon hunters, a rare occupation indeed but one in which the sixteen year old was determined to excel.
He could think of no better ally in this goal than his foster father, Rupert Giles. Even from early boyhood he had realised that the old man was a veritable trove of knowledge. Giles seemed to know everything about anything and there was absolutely no answer he could not give...although there were more than a few answers that he would not give the young lad, not yet anyway.
Jeremiah did not overly mind as he felt that his education was progressing at a very fine pace indeed. Not only could he read and write...he could do so perfectly in Greek and Latin. He also knew more about demonology than was natural for any young man to know and he knew how to kill them...in theory at least. He had never actually come face to face with a demon and although he had often protested to Giles, he was secretly glad he was not yet old enough to be unleashed on the creatures of the night. Still, Giles had gone as far to say that Jeremiah was the most exceptional student he had ever taught. Although Jeremiah had been raised to be modest, he could not help but think of his exceptional skills as being exceedingly exceptional indeed.
He also thought himself particularly lucky to be alive at such an exciting time and living in a city as vibrant and bustling as London. There was no greater proof of this than the scene upon which he gazed this particular spring morning.
Jeremiah had previously thought that no sight could possibly be more fascinating than watching a building the size of Montagu House be torn down. Watching day by day as the once grand library was reduced to its basic elements, brick, wood, glass and tile, Jeremiah realised that one could not truly appreciate the technical marvel of construction until one had witnessed its deconstruction. Giles on the other hand did not seem to share his enthusiasm for the building's destruction. Young Jeremiah very wisely deduced that Giles had developed a strong affinity for his old library and had difficulty accepting the fact that Montagu House's collection had grown to the point where they were almost spilling out the doors and windows. He had often helpfully reminded Giles that this was the way progress worked, the old was destroyed to make way for the new but more than once he had been silenced mid-sentence by an angry glare. At times such as this, he wisely held his tongue until the time came when Giles was able to appreciate exactly what it was that was being created.
The time, Jeremiah thought, had finally come. He had not visited the construction site for over a month and his patience was dully rewarded at the sight of all the progress that had been achieved. With a grin breaking out on his face, he turned to Giles who was still some distance behind him.
"I told you they would have commenced the raising of the beams!" he pointed in the distance to where an intricate iron beam was being ever so slowly lifted heavenward. Giles nodded politely as he finally caught up with his young charge. "Did I also tell you that due to its immense size, the beams are cast iron! We are witnessing history Giles...you can almost envision an entire building made of iron in the not too distance future."
"Almost," Giles muttered wryly, "Almost."
"Giles, you do not need to feign enthusiasm merely to humour me, "Jeremiah folded his arms across his chest as though he were offended but there was a gleam in his eye and his grin lingered on his face.
"Your enthusiasm is overly infectious," Giles admitted grudgingly, "Although I still do not see what was wrong with our old home...the books and I were perfectly content."
Jeremiah was not at all impressed by this line of argument, "Giles, I spent my childhood listening to you complain about Montagu House's lack of space...and you very nearly keeled over when you learnt that the King's Library of 65,000 volumes was to be donated to the collection. You should really admit that you fear change, it is a common trait in one so..."
The young man's mouth clamped shut before he could utter his next word, thereby digging a larger hole for himself. However, he had not cut himself off quickly enough and Giles's hand snapped out to cuff him lightly over the back of his head. As he rubbed his head he cast an annoyed glance back over his shoulder towards Giles. He met the warlock's stern gaze and decided that any further conversation on the subject was a bad idea.
"There stands Mr Van Helsing," Jeremiah tactfully changed the subject away from Giles' advanced years, pointing towards a tall figure in the distance.
"Indeed," Giles stated, hardly sounding as though he had just laid eyes on an old friend.
As the two men drew closer, it was all too apparent that Abraham Van Helsing was throwing himself with great gusto into the rebuilding project. He moved about the construction site with the vigour of a man half his age, seeming to oversee every aspect and issue orders to every man working. He had stripped down to his shirt which was stained with as much grime and sweat as the lowliest labourer.
Jeremiah was less keen to approach closer now that he had seen Van Helsing; he had never liked the aloof, temperamental Museum Director...and the feeling was most probably mutual. While Giles had all the time in the world for him and his incessant questions, Van Helsing managed to ignore him most of the time and the few times when he did have something to say to him, it was usually unjustifiably harsh.
"What was Mr Van Helsing like when he was younger?" Jeremiah asked as he and Giles came to a halt just outside the construction site, both watching as an intricately worked iron truss was lifted skyward by the wooden cranes.
Giles turned his head slightly, not fully meeting Jeremiah's gaze, "Why do you ask?"
Jeremiah shrugged, trying to play down his curiosity, "No real reason...I just wondered if he was always such a grumpy old bastard."
Although Giles would not meet his gaze, Jeremiah was staring straight at him and he saw the small, sad smile that curled his lips. Behind his glasses, Giles's eyes were slightly misty.
"Your father felt exactly the same way about Abraham as you do...which is..." Giles struggled to find the appropriate word and finally came up with, "Unfortunate."
"I fail to see how such an opinion is unfortunate," Jeremiah muttered, turning his attention back to the construction work, the iron beam was being manoeuvred into place atop the stone work, "It is naught but the truth."
"It may very well be the truth...but it was not always so," Giles replied, "It is unfortunate that Abraham will be remembered for the man he has become...as opposed to the man he was."
"And what sort of man was he?" Jeremiah continued his line of questioning in order to be polite, sensing that Giles felt it important.
"Almost the opposite of everything he is now...kind, quietly spoken, utterly selfless and terribly brave," Giles elaborated, the tone of his voice taking on a wistful nature as though he would give anything to have that man back once again.
"Giles, this line of conversation is prodding me to inquire as to the reason behind such a change...it must have been truly momentous to cause such a shift in character."
"Another time perhaps," Giles's tone clearly indicated that was as much as he was prepared to say.
Jeremiah drew his attention away from the work going on in front of him and turned to Giles with an annoyed look on his face. He felt decidedly cheated by the fact that Giles would build up such a picture of Van Helsing's background only to refuse to add the last few details. When he saw the look in Giles's eyes, he realised that whatever it had been, his mentor was also invested emotionally those mysterious events of the past. He frowned slightly at this realisation, wondering what it could have been to cause such a change in Abraham Van Helsing and yet leave Rupert Giles unaffected...or was he? Jeremiah began to think that perhaps his mentor had also changed...although this was difficult to accept, he had always imagined that Giles had changed little over the centuries. Jeremiah immediately felt somewhat ashamed that he would hold onto such a narrow point of view...people changed over the course of their lives, sometimes dramatically and there was no reason for Giles to be any different.
"Did it have something to do with his family?" Jeremiah prodded tentatively, "Did someone die?"
Giles gave him a 'warning' look but Jeremiah was not to be put off so easily. He felt he had already pushed the boundaries of his relationship with his mentor farther than was appropriate, going a little further was worth the risk...and he did not seriously think that Giles could actually be angry with him anyway.
"It must have been someone dying, his wife? His brother...sister..."
Giles let out a small growl as soon as Jeremiah mentioned the word 'sister', "You really are the most impertinent and rude young man I have ever had the misfortune of teaching...desist with this line of questioning or I will have you personally re-organise the Museum's entire catalogue!"
Jeremiah once again found himself clamping his mouth shut, he had absolutely no doubt that Giles would act on his threat. He had no desire to spend the rest of his life cataloguing museum objects and decided that it was best not to pursue his line of questioning. The information he had gleaned however, was more than enough to inspire him to start a little research of his own. So Abraham Van Helsing had a sister...Jeremiah predicted that by the end of the day he would know exactly who she was and what had happened to her. He resumed watching the raising of the beams with a satisfied expression on his face, not knowing that the afternoon's events would render digging for Van Helsing's family history completely irrelevant.
What happened next came in a blur of noise and flying dust, even later, reflecting on what had happened, Jeremiah could not be entirely sure that his memories were correct. He could however, be certain of the outcome, having seen it with his own eyes. It was an image which would be burned into his mind for the rest of his life.
At some point, one of the thick cables carrying the beam skywards snapped and the heavy iron truss came crashing back down to earth. It didn't fall straight; it flew almost as though it had been picked up in a gust of wind. There was an awful sickening sound as it hit the ground, thudding into stonework, earth...and flesh.
"Oh my god," Jeremiah whispered, "Mr Van Helsing..."
Even as his voice trailed off, Giles was already running towards the scene of the accident. He had disappeared into the cloud of dust before Jeremiah had even thought to make his feet move. As he did make his way forward, the shouts and cries of the workmen filled his ears and the dust his nostrils and eyes. He was rubbing his eyes ineffectively when he saw Giles bent low to the ground over the torso of a man pinned beneath the fallen beam. His jaw dropped as he moved closer and saw Abraham Van Helsing's ashen face. As his gaze trailed lower he realised what had happened...the heavy iron beam had brutally and roughly sliced him in half. The splashes of violent red covering the ground and the lower half of his torso were in stark contrast to the pallor of his skin.
Jeremiah immediately stumbled to the ground and felt as though his stomach would eject his breakfast, he gamely fought to keep himself under control but only by not looking at the scene in front of him.
"Abraham..." it was Giles's voice, dry and strained, it seemed as though he could not find the words.
"Don't bother with your....sympathies, Giles," Abraham's voice carried faintly to Jeremiah's ears, it sounded as though it were being forced out between his lips, "...you know as well as I that death is only the beginning."
Rupert Giles have seen the face of death before, the sight in front of him brought him back to another time when another Van Helsing lay dying in front of him. However, he had long ceased to feel the emotional bonds with Abraham that he had shared with Willow and there was but one thought on his mind...and it was not sympathy.
"Abraham, you must tell me where the skull is!" Giles fought the urge to shake the dying man by his lapels.
Abraham Van Helsing smiled, a toothy grin of pain, blood bubbling between his teeth, he gasped, "Y-you know it is well...h-h-hidden."
"It needs to be destroyed!" Giles urged, gripping the dying man's hand.
Abraham's severed body shuddered violently, Giles gripped him by the shoulders to keep him still and finally he sagged in a limp form. Giles appeared crestfallen as the man died without giving him any further information. However, even as life fled his body, Abraham managed to utter his last words...words which seemed to make absolutely no sense.
"Most...Horrid...Magicks," Abraham whispered.
He was then still; his eyes stared blankly towards the heavens, his cragged and pale face appearing at peace. Giles's body flopped backwards to the ground, and he sat staring at the corpse with an expressionless face.
A few metres away, Jeremiah finally had his stomach under control and managed to make his way to Giles's side. He reached down and laid a firm hand on Giles's shoulder. The contact was not to express his sympathy for Van Helsing's death, but to keep himself upright when he was in danger of sagging to his knees at the horrific sight.
"What does that mean?" Jeremiah asked to keep his mind off the mutilated man lying in front of him, "Giles, his last words made no sense!"
"They made perfect sense," Giles assured him with a brisk nod; he reached out and tenderly closed Abraham's eyes.
A few moments later, he stood. With his support gone, Jeremiah's legs gave out on him and he slumped to his knees, feeling more than a little sick to his stomach. He could not drag his eyes away from the body, finally feeling a hint of sadness well up inside him...more for the man that Abraham Van Helsing must have once been than the one he knew. When he eventually did draw his gaze away he found Giles was walking away.
"Hurry up if you're coming," he called over his shoulder.
"Where?" Jeremiah scrambled to his feet and managed to break into a jog to catch up with Giles.
Jeremiah Croft had only ever once set foot in the parlour of Abraham Van Helsing's house on Gordon Square and that had been more than far enough for the young man. However as he followed Giles in for the second time, he realised the house was not as foreboding as he had once thought it. It was not too hard for the young man to know why, with the dominating and thoroughly unpleasant presence of Van Helsing himself missing from the picture the house actually seemed pleasant and inviting.
There was no time to make oneself at home however; he almost had to maintain a jog to keep up with Giles as the older man moved through the house, dismissing the questioning servant that appeared from the kitchen with a flick of his hand. Jeremiah made an apologetic face towards the grey haired old man but there was a look of acceptance on his face as though Giles had a right to intrude in Abraham Van Helsing's home.
Giles made his way swiftly into a library of sorts and straight for a bookcase. When he tugged a certain book, the entire section, still laden with books, began to move.
"How splendid!" Jeremiah exclaimed as the hidden door swung inwards to reveal a narrow passageway leading down.
He followed Giles closely, the darkness broken by the burning torches in their brackets. When they emerged into the room that lay beneath the house proper, Jeremiah's jaw dropped to see the training room laid out in front of him with all its marvels and distractions. Even as he was trying to take everything in, Giles moved off to the left towards yet more bookcases. Reluctantly dragging his eyes away from the weapons, Jeremiah followed him. He finally understood Abraham's last words when he saw Giles's fingers fall onto the leather bound spine of a book. He glanced at the title to read 'Moste Horride Magicks.' Abraham's last words had been the title to the book which would unlock yet another secret passage.
"There are only two copies of this book in existence," Giles answered Jeremiah's unspoken question, "One is in the Museum's rare books collection...and the other has been here for some time."
The case swung inwards as soon as the book was tugged, the light from the torches burning in the training room revealed a dark passage with no lights of its own. While Giles stepped straight into the darkness, Jeremiah retrieved a torch from a nearby bracket before following. The light revealed the passage to lead absolutely nowhere; the only opening was an iron barred door to one side. Jeremiah stopped just behind Giles who was staring into the darkness beyond the bars.
"What is it Mr Giles?" Jeremiah strained to see anything through the iron bars.
He saw nothing but darkness but definitely caught a whiff of several strong odours. His nose wrinkled a few times before he was assaulted by the full, extremely unpleasant smell emanating from within the cell. It was almost tangy...like blood and fear mixed together. He heard movement in the darkness before he saw anything; there was a frantic, animalistic scuffling. Gradually his eyes adjusted to the dim light and he made out a form pressed against the far wall. His eyes widened as he realised it was not an animal but a person. The figure turned slightly towards the light and he caught sight of a decidedly feminine shape to the jaw and lips...although he could make out little, he was sure it was a woman.
"Mr Giles, I do not believe that is a skull," Jeremiah observed pointedly, he paused and frowned, "Well, there is a skull but it would be attached to her neck...and covered in flesh...so you wouldn't really call it a skull as such, given that she...or whatever it is, is still alive."
"Indeed," Giles ignored much of Jeremiah's babbling and stepped a little closer to the bars, although he did not need to see the face of the figure huddled in front of him to know who it was.
It slowly lifted its head; Giles's gaze went not to its face but to the collar of his own creation fastened around the creature's pale throat. The collar had gone missing from his office at Montagu House some years earlier. Now he knew exactly what had become of it.
His gaze then travelled back up to the creature's face and his instincts were confirmed. It was indeed the demon who had killed Willow Van Helsing. Its blue eyes pierced the darkness but the dull stare lacked the fire or anger he remembered from Covasna. The only emotions he saw were fear and absolute sorrow.
He held his hand over the lock and murmured a few words, of its own accord the bolts slid free and the door swung inwards. Although he approached the demon with a measure of caution, Giles felt strangely unthreatened. He watched as it pressed itself hard against the wall as though trying to shrink from his presence.
As his eyes became accustomed to the gloom in the cell he was able to make her out more clearly. She was clad in rags with every exposed area of skin absolutely filthy. There was crusted blood around her mouth but that was not the sight that caused him to drop his jaw, it was the moist tears creating tracks through the dirt on its face. Tentatively Giles reached out and touched its face, feeling the wetness for himself. It flinched away immediately, twisting her head away from his touch. Without pity, Giles seized its chin in a vice-like grip and yanked the demon's head so he could stare into its eyes. He said nothing but the look on his face conveyed all the necessary hatred and revulsion.
Jeremiah watched silence for a moment until Giles dragged the woman to her feet. He was only just beginning to realise that the blood stains covering the floor and the rags she wore did not belong to her...it had been food.
"She is a vampire?" he whispered, staring at the blood stained bowl at his feet, "Why on earth would Mr Van Helsing be keeping a vampire locked in his cellar?"
Giles did not reply, instead he wrenched the demon to its feet and shouldered roughly past Jeremiah who had already jumped out of the way to avoid coming into contact with an actual demon. It made no attempt to struggle as Giles dragged it back into the training room and towards the stairs. Jeremiah could do nothing except follow, although he had a sinking suspicion as to what was about to happen.
His suspicions were confirmed minutes later as Giles opened a set of French doors that led to a small courtyard. Still the creature made no move to resist and with one final shove, Giles sent its thin, rag-clad body flying out onto the sun-drenched courtyard.
Although Jeremiah had never seen it for himself, it was a well known fact that vampires burned when exposed to sunlight. However, although the creature was writhing about in pain, it was obviously because the light hurt her after having been kept in darkness for a long time. All her movements, shielding her eyes, making for the small patch of shade by the wall, were reactions that a human would make...a demon would have already started burning.
"I don't understand," Jeremiah surged forward, his eyes wide with curiosity, "She looks like a vampire...and yet she is not burning? Giles, why does she not burn?"
Giles was far too disturbed to answer the young man; instead he drew a stake from the pocket of his jacket and crossed to where the creature lay curled in the centre of the courtyard. He seized the vampire roughly by the hair and it cried out once more in pain. Giles remained immune to the pathetic sounds emerging from its lips as he dragged it to its feet. Without waiting for it to gain a proper footing he pulled it up in one swift tug and threw it against the wall of the courtyard.
Such was the force behind the shove that Jeremiah winced as the vampire's head cracked against the stone. She cried out again and he almost felt as though he should intervene. The feeling unnerved him somewhat as he had a well-developed loathing of vampires. After all, Giles had told him the one such creature had been responsible for his father's death. However, he couldn't help but feel that something was different...and the longer he stared at her, the more her realised he was seeing her as a woman rather than a demon.
Giles on the other hand, could not see it as anything but the demon that had murdered Willow Van Helsing. With rough fingers he tugged aside the rags covering its chest to expose the flesh above the heart. He then drew his arm backwards in preparation for plunging it downwards. He merely grazed the skin covering its chest with his fingers but that was all it took for him to feel the unmistakable thud of a heart. He paused long enough to come emerge from his hate fuelled rage and realised that the vampire was breathing. As it tried to cringe away from him, its breaths came short and fast with terror
"Tell me now you piece of filth, what has Abraham Van Helsing done to you?" Giles demanded in a tightly wound voice, clearly straining to maintain any semblance of control.
The vampire did not reply as it was still trying to shield its eyes from the harsh sunlight. He once again seized the chin, forcing it to look at him through narrowed eyes that watering profusely in its pain.
Giles felt his finger nails dig into its flesh but he could not care less, all he wanted was an answer, "Tell me now or I will take great pleasure in driving this stake through your chest!"
"S-s..." the vampire's lips worked slowly as it struggled to form words.
Giles was impatient in his anger and he pulled he forward slightly only so he could again slam its head backwards against the stone, "Speak!"
"Soul," the single word emerged as a drawn out gasp from its lips.
Just that one word was enough to almost knock Giles off his feet. For a moment his guard was down entirely and an expression other than anger registered on his face, that of fear...however it was quickly wiped, replaced once again by his fierce scowl. He could do nothing however about the turmoil that raged within. He wondered how the hell Abraham had managed to do the impossible.
"Giles, what does she mean by that?" Jeremiah asked incredulously, daring to step a little closer.
"Firstly stop referring to this creature as 'she'," Giles replied coldly, "It is not a person...and secondly, I believe Abraham Van Helsing found a way to restore it's soul and the spell had a few unwanted side effects, a botched job most likely."
"How can you restore a soul at all let alone botch it?" Jeremiah strained for a better view and his eyes widened when he clearly saw the rise and fall of her chest, while he had never seen a vampire before he definitely knew that they were not supposed to be breathing.
Giles ignored Jeremiah's incessant questioning, knowing that there would be no end...and also because he did not possess many of the answers. His real concern was establishing why this creature had remained alive in Abraham's cellar. Despite the pitiful state it was in, he felt only anger and hatred towards it. Although he found what Abraham had done to it to be horribly unethical from a magical point of view, he did not feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the suffering he had inflicted. Giles even felt a small smile come unbidden to his lips when he realised the creature would have been left in the dark, fully aware of exactly what she had done to Willow and suffering terribly because of it. It was a fitting punishment...if a little unconventional.
"You have precisely thirty seconds before I end your miserable existence...tell me, why are you still alive?" Giles demanded.
"T-to suffer," it whispered, "H-he wanted me to...s-s-suffer."
"I'm well aware of that!" Giles barked, removing his fingers from its chin only long enough to slap it across the cheek with the full force of his palm, the head snapped to one side momentarily but he grabbed the chin once more and forced it to face him even as the tears fell freely down its cheeks, "However I am also aware of the fact that you could have given up...refused to feed, ended all of this...surely that option was preferable to dwelling in your own filth for years?"
"Y-yes," the vampire whispered, "but I had to live...to tell someone...to tell you...the skull..."
Giles scoffed derisively, "What does a pathetic creature like you know about the skull?"
"I know who knows where it is," was the small reply.
"And I suppose Van Helsing told you this did he?" Giles snorted, already having difficulty believing a word of what she said.
She replied with the barest hint of a nod and drew in a deep breath before speaking, "He said W-Will..." another deep breath, "He said Willow would know how to find the skull."
Giles let out an angry growl, incensed that it would even dare to mention Willow's name, "There is a small problem with that...one you are responsible for."
"I know...and nothing I do will change that," its voice was raspy, barely above a whisper, "But if you truly desire to uncover the skull in order to destroy it...you'll need to bring her back."
"No...nearly impossible...w-w would need to work together," another deep, shaky breath before it continued, "You know as well as I that she deserves a chance at life...she was murdered cruelly...unjustly. Please Giles, ignore the fact that you have to accept the words of a demon and do it for her."
Giles released the vampire and it fell back to the cobbles; pale skin marked red where his fingers had dug into the flesh. She immediately curled into a tight ball against the courtyard wall as though she expected him to strike her once again.
"Jeremiah, take this thing and get it cleaned up, I find its smell offensive!" Giles turned away from the vampire, unable to remain looking at her any longer.
Jeremiah stared blankly ahead in shock for a moment before Giles's words actually registered. He looked back and forth between the vampire and Giles before spinning on his heels.
"Me?" Jeremiah spluttered, following Giles back into the house, leaving the vampire unattended as it huddled against the courtyard wall, "Giles...you can't leave her in my care! I do not know what to do!"
"You must," Giles growled, refusing to turn around as he continued walking further away from the courtyard, "I cannot look at it for a moment longer or I will drive this stake through its chest!"
He angrily tossed the stake to one side where it knocked a vase from a table, both stake and porcelain fragments fell to the floor. Jeremiah realised that Giles was not going to be swayed and stopped following him. He slowly turned around to stare back out the open door. The creature had not moved, she remained exactly where she had crouched when Giles had released her from his grip. With tentative steps, Jeremiah moved back out into the sunlight and into the presence of the vampire. His mouth opened to speak but he realised that he did not know what to say. What was one supposed to say to a filthy, half-starved vampire with a soul?
"Hello," Jeremiah called quietly, "We haven't been formally introduced but I am Jeremiah Croft."
The vampire made no attempt at a response. Jeremiah screwed up his face as he pondered his next move. He felt somewhat annoyed by the fact that he was afraid of this creature, especially with his chosen career path at stake.
"If you would like to accompany me I can see about getting one of the servants to draw you a bath...and perhaps obtain some food...if you eat food? You prefer blood? Not that I am offering my own...I really would appreciate it if you did not attempt to drink mine, you surely noticed that Giles is in somewhat of a temper and I think attacking me might push him over the edge...and you would be...well..." Jeremiah spread his fingers to mimic his words, "Poof!"
She flinched noticeably, causing Jeremiah to instantly regret his words. Although he was reluctant to move any closer to the vampire, he hunkered down slowly to join her at her level.
"I do not know who this 'Willow' is or why Mr Giles needs to find this skull but I do know that he has decided to spare you, an unlikely turn of events given what you are, so you should accept my help...will you come with me?"
She turned towards him, studying him with her empty eyes. Jeremiah tentatively extended his hand, trying his best to keep his fingers from trembling.
Several minutes passed, Jeremiah and the vampire continued to stare at one another, neither daring to make a further move, either from fear on his part or something unknown on her part.
"Will you come with me?" Jeremiah repeated, he had been staring into the vampire's sapphire gaze so long he feared he was being intoxicated. Given that this was the effect when her eyes were dull and her strength sapped, he could only imagine the effect their full luminescence would have on him...he imagined that it would be something akin to infatuation.
Finally she started to move, her hand moved away from its position curled against her stomach and towards Jeremiah's outstretched hand.
"T-Tara," she said the name as though it were unfamiliar to her own ears.
"Tara," Jeremiah repeated, managing a small smile of encouragement.
As Tara's icy fingers met his own, he of course had no idea that he was taking the hand of the vampire that had killed his father.